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Government Nutrition Assistance Programs

There are several government nutrition assistance programs that are available in health centers or clinics, schools, child-care centers, and licensed day-care homes. These programs assist families in meeting the nutritional needs of their children.

The Supplemental Nutrition Program for Low Income Women, Infants, and Children is a government program that provides nutrition education, vouchers for food, and referral for services for eligible women and children. Eligibility includes having a nutritional risk and an income that is less than the poverty level multiplied by 1.85.

The Child and Adult Care Food Program provides reimbursement to child-care providers—child-care centers and family day-care homes—for each child to have two meals and a snack. The provider must follow menu guidelines and report the menus in order to be reimbursed.

The National School Meal Program (NSMP), which includes lunch, breakfast, and special milk, is offered in almost every school in the country. The lunch provides one-third of a child's daily nutrient requirements; when breakfast is also provided, 40 percent of the requirements are met. If a school does not have a cafeteria, food may be brought in from a central kitchen or at least the special milk program will be available. With the increase of after-school programs, the NSMP is assisting in providing snacks for those programs. In the summer when school is not in session, day camps, recreation centers, and schools can sponsor the Summer Food Program, which provides lunches for children to eligible programs.

The Food Stamp Program was designed to provide coupons or electronic benefits to people with low incomes for the purchase of eligible food items. Income, household size, assets, housing costs, work requirements, and other factors determine eligibility and allotments. A study of data gathered in fiscal year 1998 found that 52.8 percent of all participants were children (age eighteen or younger).


Clark, Nancy. Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook, 2nd edition. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 1996.

Dietz, William H., and Lorraine Stern, eds. Guide to Your Child's Nutrition: Making Peace at the Table and Building Healthy Eating Habits for Life. New York: Villard, 1989.

"Frequently Asked Questions [about Food Stamps]." In the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service [web site]. Washington, DC, 2001. Available from http://www.fns.usda.gov/fsp/menu/faqs/faqs.htm; INTERNET.

Story, Mary, Katrina Holt, and Denise Sofka, eds. Bright Futures in Practice: Nutrition. Arlington, VA: National Center for Education in Maternal and Child Health, 2000.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. Tips for Using the Food Guide Pyramid for Young Children, Two to Six Years Old. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, 1999.

"Your Guide to Nutrition and Health Information on Federal Government Websites." Available at http://www.nutrition.gov; INTERNET.

Stacy L. Dubit

Janice Dodds

Nicole B. Knee

Additional topics

Social Issues ReferenceChild Development Reference - Vol 6Nutrition - Infancy, Early Childhood, Middle Childhood, Adolescence, Government Nutrition Assistance Programs